July 4 – the kindness of strangers, the simplicity of hope (Inishbofin island)

hitchJuly 4th Hitching For Hope blog from Inishbofin Island. Ruairí’s Hitching For Hope national listening tour is a one month project to hear, document and promote the visions and visions of the people of Ireland in advance of speaking at the MacGill Summer School in Glenties on July 29th & 30th . More info 

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2am Friday morning, blog before bed review of Thursday July 4th ( please excuse errors and sound quality issues etc.). Press the orange play icon on sound files to hear audio. 

Freezing my ass off and the kindness of strangers

6am Thursday, up with the freezing cold as my new light-weight one man tent took a good bashing from the wind. and rain all night. ‘Feck this’ I thought. Brendan changed that when he appeared from nowhere to open the kitchen and offer me hot coffee, tasty porridge and plenty of stories about life after redundancy and drinking.

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He says he is living the simple healthy life on the island, fishing, camping, and foraging, triathlons and enjoying the company of tourists and locals, before he returns to the mainland in the winter.

Understanding history to understand the present

My faith in the day was restored and an offer of a fish dinner for the evening meant I decided to spend another night on the island. Off  I went following a group of primary school teachers on a heritage week learning tour. I listened in as archaeologist Michael Gibbons talked of history and heritage, colonialism and oppression, and the shifts and wheels of history that can give us perspective of our current challenges in Ireland.

I confessed to him that I had been an imposter on his tour while I interviewed him walking to the ferry. He talked of the current tough times we’re in, his belief that change won’t come from within the system, and his hope that community power can make a difference. Listening to him I was reminded by a quote by Jamaican campaigner Marcus Garvey: ‘A people without a knowledge of their history is like a tree without roots’.

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The search for Damien Dempsey

At the ferry I spotted Choctaw native American man Gary Whitedeer, a fellow friend of the Afri peace organisation that I had met at the famine walk in Mayo only a few weeks ago. Mad stuff. Earlier in the day I had texted a friend looking for Gary’s number as I knew he knows Damien Dempsey (the musician and singer) and I had heard Damien was on the island and figured he’d make an ideal interview candidate due to his talented songs of hope and struggle. As Gary waved goodbye on the ferry he told me that Damien was down in Murrays pub. So off I went. The search for Damo.

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Finding religion

Just 3 minutes down the road I said hello to two lady joggers. One of them called me back. ‘Ruairi, it’s me, Roisin.’ Roisin is a woman in her late twenties I had met a few times through work over the years. ‘What are you at?’ I asked her. ‘Taking time out, after quitting my job’ she replied whilst looking at her mother. I knew there was more to it. There generally is when people quit their job in a recession, as I did 2 years ago. ‘I’m considering the religious life’ she said as she talked about her calling to find the God within and to live a simple life. And so a fascinating interview began.

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Spuds, evangelistic eijits, and bean counters

Off to went to find Damo. No joy in Murrays but I found a young Dublin school teacher working in the pub for the summer. He served me up a tasty feed of roast chicken as I got chatting to a Kildare woman who suggested I might be some kind of evangelist, not something I’d like to be considered as. A missionary maybe I thought, am I a missionary for hope? Erm. I dunno. ‘An eijit’ I suggested. ‘A nice eijit’ said replied. And off she went. In came an artist lady I had chatted to the night before. She told me about her ‘Shirley Valentine’ week of getting time away from work and family to focus on her art and the need to get more balance in life.

She talked about her hours as an adult education art teacher being cut from 12 to 8 per week and the fact the bean counters want more outputs and reports despite her work being more about social development than it does about some bizarre lens of stale statistics and logic. The logic masters want more art outputs. How can she tell that to the woman who is trying art after not leaving her house in 3 years, she thought. The bean counters are running the world. I’m all for productivity and accountability but they are killing humanity with their bizarre logic.

Island view

Up at the top of a windswept hill I looked out on the beautiful island and neighbouring islands, reflecting on how lucky I was to be there, and grateful for the support I’ve received. Thinking about island life I kept thinking about simplicity and community, something that was a clear part of life on Inishbofin.

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Survival amidst abuse

A few minutes later I chatted to a local man who confirmed that indeed life was about simplicity for him but more so about survival. He said he didn’t hold out much hope for his 4 daughters and that the world is run by control masters in economics, politics and religion and that all you can do in protect your own sanity and maintain ways to keep things simple and free from control. A man who knew himself I thought. Hopeful, maybe not, but dignified, aware and confident, yes. ‘We don’t need much to survive’ he said, and he’s right.

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Simplicity again

I stopped two men, one of who was wearing a Norwegian flag on his cap. I wanted to hear about Norway but he was from Cork. All the better I figured. The younger man was Dub, a recently qualified Engineer looking for work. Good luck with that I thought. ‘I’m sailing around Ireland with my uncle’ he said, pointing to the Cork man. ‘Life is about keeping things simple. We sailed here on a few euro worth of diesel. It’s about nature, the simple things’ the Cork postmaster said as we looked out at the sun shining on the bay.

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Tweets of hope

Last night I got a Twitter invite to the Beach Inn pub nearby. This morning the same fella sent me a Facebook message inviting me over for breakfast, hardly 300 metres away. I better go find out who he is I figured. Turns out he is a friend of  my friends from Loughrea. Adrian Herlihy in the Beach Inn had heard about my trip, not via my friend, but from Senator Lorraine Higgins on Twitter. The web is mad at times. Great though. Small world. Tiny country.

A nice free coffee in the Beach Inn and a great chat with Adrian as he told me about his journey working in different hotels around the world and deciding to make a go of this business with his wife who is from the island. They focus on good locallly sourced food (as local as possible), nice accomodation, good music and hospitality. A hopeful man and shining with upbeat positivity.

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Eco dreams

On to find Marie Coyne who set up the local museum. She wasn’t there so up the road I went, first stopping to see a former Dublin solicitor in his garden who moved here to build an eco centre. More dreams of the simple life and no shortage of clarity on the fact that the spectacular fail of capitalism is a good thing, because nobody can deny it. That opens the door to new possibilities, ones that need to be embraced. He’s hopeful!

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Hope and history

Finally made it up to Marie, a lovely woman in her 40s who has lived on the island all her life and has a passion for history inspired by a connection to her ancestors and an appreciation for their struggle and what they gave her. She didn’t have electricity until she was 12 and doesn’t have an inclination to leave the island. She has all she needs. She has written several books, is working on another and gets hope from her young niece who has down syndrome. The simple things.

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Dinner, revolution, and the choice of hope in the air

I had to rush back to make it in time for my dinner invite. Free dinner with good people, there was no way I was missing that. On the way I got a another media query and a message from Roisin offering me a bed in their rented house so I could take refuge from the cold. More kindness.

Back in the hostel the table was set and Brendan talked me out of any prospect of heading off to a house for the night. He arrived with a duvet for warmth and promised porridge in the morning before I got the ferry. Hard to argue with that. Hard to argue with the amazing dinner of fresh fish, veg, spuds and wine that about 8 of us sat down to. An international inter-generational communal effort at it’s best with me providing nothing in particular other than a few offerings of what I was up to and why I think we need to find and elevate messages of hope.

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Later the conversation moved into the bankers, the fact we seem to have two sets of laws in Ireland, and the consensus that justice was needed and needed soon. The country seems to be impatient for change and I’m hoping there is an awakening that we can’t take any more lies and spin. Waking up to lies can be painful but I think it can lead to hope. The line between that and despair is fine though and today’s chats reinforced my sense that whether we end up with hope or despair can often be the simple flick of a switch, the choice of how we see things, what perspective we take as we wake up each day.

Today was epic. No Damo but it was filled to the brim with the good stuff. Inishbofin’s charm has got me and it’s going to be hard to leave but already I’m wondering how I’m going  to make it around the country in just a few short weeks. It’s 2am now. I’ve been awake 20 hours. I can’t get to bed because people keep talking to me to me all day and I’m trying to make time to blog and process some of the day’s footage. Still trying to get into the flow of things. Perhaps listening is a good thing but too much is hard to process. Still, I’m grateful to all these people for sharing their lives and stories with me. I’m now wrecked. It’s been a long day and I’m up at 7am to get a ferry and aiming for Mayo. Off to the tent with me as the wind starts to howl.

Thank you Inishbofin, you’re a beacon of hope in a sea of madness. Thanks also to everyone following this online,  especially to those who have been chipping in funds online and those who shared their stories and their hospitality.

The Hitching For Hope continues.

Ruairí

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About this trip | Hitching blog | Facebook Twitter | E-news LinkedIn | | Donate